Competing suffixes: Feminine formation of Hebrew loanwords

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The study examines cases of variation in feminine formation of Hebrew loanwords, where the same masculine base can take two different feminine suffixes, -it and -a. While most loanwords in Hebrew demonstrate uniformity in feminine formation and take the default feminine suffix -it, the study reveals a set of words that can take both suffixes. What triggers this variation and what blocks it? I argue that it results from the interaction of both semantic and morpho-phonological criteria, and that variation is predictable based on systematic guidelines. On the semantic dimension, words that also take -a have negative meaning, and the use of this vowel is indeed more typical of marking lexical meaning, in addition to grammatical gender. From the morpho-phonological point of view, words that take both suffixes do not have typical non-native structure and they resemble, to some extent, to native Hebrew words that take the suffix -a. The study sheds light of the factors that play a role in morphological variation and the adaptation of loanwords.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalSKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Slovak Association for the Study of English. All rights reserved.


  • Feminine formation
  • Gender
  • Hebrew
  • Loanwords
  • Morphological adaptation
  • Variation


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